Caffeinated Prayer and Religious Roasting: Catholic Monks and Laity Produce Good Coffee

Roasters discuss their craft, so grab a cuppa and discover the secrets both monks and laity use to brew a righteous cup of joe.

Clockwise from left: a Carmelite monk surveys the roasting process for Mystic Monk Coffee; Papist Coffee’s ‘Pius X Roast’; and Patris Roasting Co. ‘Peru FTO’ blend
Clockwise from left: a Carmelite monk surveys the roasting process for Mystic Monk Coffee; Papist Coffee’s ‘Pius X Roast’; and Patris Roasting Co. ‘Peru FTO’ blend (photo: Courtesy of Mystic Monk Coffee, Papist Coffee’ and Patris Roasting Co. )

Americans drink more than 500 million cups of coffee daily. Based on a rough calculation based on the typical statistics of the Catholic population of our country (262 million adults in the U.S. in 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), millions of those cups are likely consumed by Catholics. Maybe you’re one of those. What if you could not only be a Catholic coffee drinker, but a drinker of Catholic coffee as well?

In recent years, numerous small Catholic coffee companies have emerged to cater -to faithful palates: faithful to gourmet coffee roasts as well as grace-filled Catholicism. 

Roasters discuss their craft, so grab a cuppa and discover the secrets both monks and laity use to brew a righteous cup of joe.

For some, it’s a hobby, for others an apostolate, and still others a means of livelihood — and for some, all three.

Nestled in the remote mountains of Wyoming, contemplative Carmelite monks roast and ship coffee around the country in order to support their community. The arid state of New Mexico is home to another monastic roastery. In Idaho and Indiana, laity experiment with coffee-making as a way to promote Church history or fundraise for their local Latin Mass community.

Isaac Rapoport, of Patris Roasting Co., explains how his company started. “We started as hobby roasters, just experimenting with roasting different beans with different roast levels and using various origins to try and taste different flavors. It became apparent quickly how much variance the roast affects beans.” 

Inspired by their priest, some young adults joined in the roasting for a fundraiser at their Fraternity of St. Peter Latin Mass parish. Their setup was makeshift, according to Rapoport: “We used a heat gun and a stainless-steel bowl, just applying the heat and stirring continuously until the beans started popping and turned brown.” 

But it started efforts for high-quality, single origin coffee that is craft-roasted.

He described the mission of Patris: “Our mission is to provide the highest possible coffee in support of the Latin Mass movement.” 

Incorporated in December 2021 when it became an LLC, the company grew to the point where it had to find a large roasting company to private label with. “The biggest hurdle was finding a company that could roast to the same high quality we were doing with our smaller electric roasters,” Isaac recounted. “It took some sampling and experimenting, but we eventually found a roaster we could stand behind.” 

Rapoport looks forward to continuing to supply quality coffee to his “devoted customers.” They are currently supporting St. Joan of Arc parish with a new church building project. “Our customers are loyal, and they say it’s the best coffee they’ve ever had; they love our label, and they say they look forward to waking up so they can drink it.”

Chris Franco, founder of Papist Coffee, first started roasting with a tiny 150-250g (less than 9 oz.) Hottop roaster in his house. “I was only able to sell in my home state of Indiana using our cottage-food laws, but it was a very fun and personalized process.”

Franco’s initial reason for starting Papist Coffee was because he’s always loved specialty coffee and Church history. 

“I thought it would be a great way to provide Catholics with a superior quality product while at the same time honoring Church history and the papal office. Since I loved the process of roasting as a hobby and also being a history nerd, I thought, ‘What better way is there to combine your favorite interests together?’” Papist Coffee now has more than two dozen roasts, all named after a different pope. 

After he’s decided on a roast profile, Franco decides if the taste (for example, bold with pepper and spice notes or soft and thin with notes of flowers or fruit) reminds him of the general temperament or character of a particular pope. “I use everything from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the popes and its primary sources, as well as oral traditions and legends regarding certain popes in history.” Once he has gathered enough information about a pope’s character, he “finds the ideal roast profile whose characteristics can be personified in a way that parallels their pontificate.”


From Beans to Brew

Rapoport described the intricate roasting process: “The process can be compared to caramelizing onions. The original green bean is heated slowly to begin to go from green astringent bitter flavors to more brown and sweet flavors. The smell can be categorized in phases starting with the green transitioning to yellow phase, smelling of grass and straw. The yellow to brown phase begins to give scents of freshly baked bread and kettle corn. When the beans are mostly visibly brown, aromas of caramel and burnt sugars come alive. Once the roast gets into the dark-roast phase, the beans get almost black.” 

The roast profile (light, dark, medium) is primarily determined by how long the bean is left to cook. “The goal is to find a balance between the right temperature at the right time for the right duration,” Rapoport added. “It is a very sensory experience.” 

“Between the yellow and brown phase, the moisture in the beans begin to evaporate and one can hear loud pops as the pressure escapes.” This is called “first crack.” For a light roast, one would stop the roast right at or before first crack, he explained. As the roast continues to heat from the brown to dark brown or black phase, more molecules are broken down and released, which produces another audible pop. This is called “second crack.” “Most medium roasts are stopped in between first and second cracks, while dark roasts are usually beans that made it all the way through the second crack,” he said.

When it comes to quality, Franco’s aim is for Papist Coffee to be on par with the roasteries in the secular specialty coffee world. “That way, people will notice and acknowledge our doctrine and history in a positive light,” he said. Another of his goals is to provide Catholics with an accessible, ethical and excellent-quality coffee option, so that “no one is forced to purchase an expensive or specialty-level coffee from a non-Catholic company whose business practices and ethical standards may conflict with our own.”


Java-Making Monks

But coffee roasting is also a monastic industry. 

Brother Bernard Marino holds the title “dean of coffee” at the Benedictine monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Silver City, New Mexico.

The monks started Abbey Roast Coffee more than a decade ago. 

“We import all our high-end gourmet Arabica coffees from Brazil, Central America, Indonesia and Africa,” Brother Bernard explained. 


With about 40 monks in his monastery and about 15 to 20 sisters in the neighboring monastery of St. Joseph, the proceeds help the community live on the work of their hands, as St. Benedict encourages his monks to do in Chapter 48 of The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, entitled “The Daily Manual Labor.” St. Benedict boldly states that “then they are truly monks when they live by the labor of their hands as did our fathers and the Apostles.”

Do the monks themselves drink the coffee? “Yes, the monks drink and run on our coffee, caffeinating us for our eight hours of prayer in the chapel each day,” Brother Bernard reported. The monks recently increased the capacity of their roasting machines from 20 lb. to 100 lb. capacity. 

Another initiative of Abbey Roast is Cafe4Life, a sub-label where the proceeds help pro-life efforts across the country. The initiative started “to reclaim that hard earned [coffee-spent] money for life,” making the brew the “Official Coffee of the March for Life.”  

Similar in mission, Seven Weeks Coffee — named for the point of development when “a baby is the size of a coffee bean — and for the first time, a heartbeat is clearly detectable” — also supports hundreds of pro-life initiatives, although not explicitly Catholic.

Officially founded in October of 2003 by Bishop David Ricken, then of Cheyenne, Wyoming (coincidentally the same year Bishop Ricken thought to found what would become Wyoming Catholic College), the Carmelite monks of Wyoming have grown from just two founding monks to now nearly 30 brothers. Desiring to embrace the wild solitude as a home for their eremitic life, they also wanted to build a beautiful monastery. 

How to do this with few resources in the least populated state of the U.S.? The answer was roasting coffee. The mission began in 2007, after roasting experiments in a cast-iron skillet.

Now, Mystic Monk Coffee supports their enclosed and contemplative life and is widely available at outlets including EWTN Religious Catalogue.


The Carmelite monks’ ambitious building program has already come a long way: Their Gothic monastery in the foothills of the Wyoming mountains is already half built, and they’ve done most of the work themselves. 

The bold, and very strong, coffee gets rave reviews. “This is the best coffee I’ve ever had! I can’t recommend it enough to others,” said one coffee drinker. “‘Midnight Vigils’ remains our favorite for the smooth, dark, silky taste! ... It’s our go-to brew as coffee purists,” another says. A third: “This is by far the smoothest dark roast coffee I’ve had. No bitterness. Love it.” 

Customers’ feedback is welcome for other roasters too. Franco of Papist Coffee reported: “We have had wonderful feedback in the form of reviews and personal messages on the coffee. I’m very grateful to always hear feedback and extremely content that the coffee is very well received and loved in different coffee-drinking communities.” 

Papist Coffee has seen rapid growth: Only last year, Franco was doing everything himself, from roasting and grinding to printing his own labels, designing, packing and shipping. A major goal was to sell coffee outside of Indiana. “Interstate food laws are extremely rigid and, even for dry goods like roasted coffee, require a lot of bureaucratic know-how and copious amounts of money to get started with from scratch. We luckily found a partner that helps us with getting our coffee outside my home state and across the country.”

While Papist Coffee is currently a side gig for Franco, his hope is to transition coffee-making into something full time. “From there, I would focus all my work on the quality of the coffee in the tiniest of details to have a chance at competing with the best specialty coffee in the market today,” he said.

Numerous other Catholic coffee roasteries exist: Religious Roast Coffee focuses on “nurturing the virtue of conscientious consumption, which, in turn, brings justice to our hardworking farmers,” with various saint-themed coffees, similar in vision to the Catholic Coffee Company’s heavenly roasts

So, next time you see your coffee supply running low, consider making your next cup with a Catholic coffee bean like the Mystic Monks’ “Cowboy Blend,” Papist’s “Pius X Whisky” blend, or a Patris “Honduras.”